December 13, 2022

The World Cup of Coffee

By The Coffee Research Department
The World Cup of Coffee

With all the football news kicking around, placing Qatar at the center of soccer mania, we asked ourselves: is the current host of the World Cup also home to the world’s first cup of coffee? 

Yes. And, well, no. While Qatar may not be, strictly speaking, the birthplace of coffee and coffee culture, it’s very, very close. 

Legend has it, coffee was discovered by happy goats and one lonely goat herder in Ethiopia. 

The Ethiopian goat herder, named Kaldi, was surprised when he noticed his goats would dance everytime they ate red berries from a particular shrub. These “dancing goats” pointed the way to today’s most consumed and legal stimulant. More than 2.3 billion cups of coffee are enjoyed everyday around the world. By anyone’s measure, that’s a very popular beverage. 

From the Ethiopian goat fields the magic bean water spread to Yemen, the rest of the Middle East, eventually making its way to Europe, Asia, and the Americas. 

This is why the word for coffee comes from the Arabic qahwa.

The word coffee entered the English language in the 1500's via the Dutch who used the word koffie , borrowed from the Ottoman Turkish who used the kahve, in turn borrowed from the Arabs who used the word qahwah.”- Qahwa Club

Qatari coffee is a special blend of arabica beans, spices such as cardamom, saffron, and cloves. They typically serve it without sugar, but custom includes a side of sweet dates to balance out the bitterness. Coffee drinking is highly ritualized, as well, using specialized cups, a protocol for serving elders first, and then serving from right to left. All together, it is meant to demonstrate hospitality, generosity, and community.

Coffee drinking is so integral to Arabic culture (and humanity) that it was inscribed by UNESCO as an intangible cultural heritage in December 2015. Other notable entries are the French Baguette and Cuban Rum. Suddenly, we have an urge to create an entirely epicurean UNESCO bucket list! 

There’s a bit more history to it, so bear with us. Qatar also helped establish coffee house culture because the hot beverage was served in communal spaces, which invited discussion and the open sharing of ideas. 

These Majlis, or coffee houses, were traditionally a male-only space, where the things such as politics and finances could be discussed among male family members and leaders. All fueled by the steady flow of coffee. 

However, even before the World Cup commenced, the coffee houses and cafés of Doha had evolved into hip, modern hang-outs. Several spaces in Doha now cater to an international crowd, offering modern takes on the traditional Arabic beverage, even an iced qahwa. You can virtually taste the globe from their offerings like flat whites, cortados, Spanish lattes with peanut butter, and iced tiramisu lattes. 

If Instagram posts don't lie, the cafés of Doha have also caught World Cup fever. Many of Doha’s cafés are open late into the night, with at least one keeping its doors open until the early morning hours, brimming with buzzy convos and tete-a-tetes.

Fortunate World Cup fans - those lucky enough to be in Qatar for the finals - get to experience two of the world’s greatest passions at once. 

More than half the world watched the World Cup in 2018, according to FIFA. That amounts to 3.572 billion people, making football and coffee consumption on nearly equal footing (give or take).

So, if we count ourselves among the football loving, coffee drinking masses, we’d be all set in the capital city of Qatar. And if we were magically transported to Doha tomorrow, we might head straight to the Mall of Qatar to watch matches on the big screen, all while enjoying Eleven-Eleven’s iced coconut latte, Flat White’s El Majhool (an espresso blended with date milk and cinnamon), or maybe head to Doha’s Festival City for L’eto’s saffron ice cube latte.  

Reading about all the innovative, imaginative coffee drinks available to football fans  made us wonder if the current World Cup city had ever blended with other cup-obsessed competitions.  In short, did Qatar have its very own coffee champs?

The answer was a resounding yes! Qatar hosted its first Barista Championship in 2019. The grand prize was a week-long vacation in Italy to study at the prestigious MUMAC academy in Italy.

It may be too late for us to be in Doha for the final match, but we can certainly  brew our own version of qahwah at home, making our cups brim with Qatari flavor. We consider that our new goooooaaaaalllll!!!!!!!!!!

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